MOONCAKES FOR MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL

Happy Mid-Autumn Festival, for those who celebrate! Every year, around July, I promise myself I will try to bake mooncakes. And every year I find excuses not to do it, because it seems so intimidating! Finally, I decided to woman-up, and go for it. I used the recipe from a great cookbook, Mooncakes and Milk Bread, by Kristina Cho. The copyrighted recipe is available online (click here), in case you don’t have the cookbook. I will share my experiences as a mooncake-virgin.

To make mooncakes, you will need molds (either plastic or wood will work). I used molds similar to these. You will also need Lyle’s Golden Syrup and a special type of water that can be made from baking soda, but I decided to get the commercially available (click here). You will only use 1 tsp of alkaline water per batch of dough. Molds come in two common sizes, 50g and 100g. I used the larger ones, make sure to adjust the amount of dough + filling to the size of mold you have.

The dough is surprisingly easy to work with, due to the high fat content. It stretches easily and I had no issues forming the balls with the filling inside. I used 48 g dough per ball, and about 35g filling of two kinds, the pistachio-honey described in the original link, and my second batch was simpler, just almond paste (8 oz) with 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips.

My problems started during baking. For many of the mooncakes, the pattern was almost fully lost during the second stage of baking. Maybe I used too much egg wash, or maybe some other tweaking in my technique was needed. At any rate, you can see in the picture below that my first batch was not as good as the second.

I suppose that making mooncakes is a bit like baking macarons, you’ll get better the more you make them. At any rate, I will definitely be using my molds with other types of cookie dough, as long as they don’t spread too much and have a higher chance of retaining the beautiful designs. Stay tuned… And if you celebrate…

HAPPY MID-AUTUMN FESTIVAL!

ONE YEAR AGO: Almond-Raspberry Triangles and a Special Cookbook Review

TWO YEARS AGO: Sweet and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower

THREE YEARS AGO: Roasted Cauliflower Salad over Hummus

FOUR YEARS AGO: Queen of Sheba

FIVE YEAR AGO: Brunch Burger

SIX YEARS AGO: Mango Salsa with Verjus

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Raspberry Bittersweet Chocolate Chunk Brownies

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Scary Good Pork Burgers

NINE YEARS AGO: Review of exercise program Focus25

TEN YEARS AGO: Celebrate Wednesday with a Thai Seafood Curry

ELEVEN YEARS AGO:  Post-workout Breakfast

TWELVE YEARS AGO: Semolina Barbecue Buns

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO: Lavash Crackers

A TRIO OF LITTLE CAKES

Mini-cakes are cute from the get-go, in fact most desserts made in single serving are pretty adorable by default. But some details can raise their level of cuteness even higher. Today I share three ideas to make mini-cakes a little more special.

The first method to make cute cupcakes is using a different shape of pan. Like this pan from Nordic Ware. I think the quality of their pans is hard to beat, and totally worth the price tag. They are heavy, well-made and bake like a dream. I usually still spray the inside with PAM baking spray, a light coating ensures nothing will stick in the little crevices.

LEMON MINI-BUNDT CAKES

LEMON MINI-BUNDT CAKES
(adapted from several sources)

125g butter (I used Kerrygold)
150g sugar
zest of 1 lemon
2 large eggs (100g)
180 g all-purpose flour
1 + 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp lemon extract
for the glaze:
200g powdered sugar (1 cup)
Juice of 1 fresh lemon (amount adjusted for consistency)
sprinkles to decorate (optional)

Heat oven to 350 F. Rub the sugar with the lemon zest for a couple a minutes until very fragrant. Cream butter and lemon-infused sugar together. Add eggs one at a time, beating in slow speed until incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and milk. Mix well to combine, then add the lemon juice and extract, whisking gently.

Pour batter into the pan a little over 1/2 full in each cavity, but not quite reaching 3/4 of the capacity. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the cake comes out clean, about 22 minutes. Leave the cakes in the pan for 5 minutes than invert and cool them completely over a rack.

Make the glaze by mixing the ingredients. You want a pourable consistency, but not too thick so that the ridges of the cake still show. Pour over the cooled cakes. Decorate with sprinkles.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

These lemon cakes are very moist, with intense citric flavor. I used a very thin glaze because I wanted the ridges to be evident. If making a regular cupcake, consider a much thicker icing that will stay on the surface a little better.

PISTACHIO-ROSE MINI-CAKES

In this method, used by Sonali from sugaretal, you will need a silicone mold to bake the cakes. Then, after washing it well, the pan is used to apply the compound chocolate coating. The result is quite stunning, but the process pretty simple. I used this pan.

PISTACHIO ROSE MINI-CAKES
(recipe from Sonali)

To get the recipe, follow the link to her Instagram page.

After baking the cakes….

The silicone pan is washed and dried very well. I used a little gold luster powder to brush the bottom of the pan, then poured Candy melts dyed light green. Carefully brushed that all the way to the sides of each cavity and placed the cake back, snuggly, so that it would get a smooth coating on the surface. Make sure to do one little cake at a time, so that the melted compound chocolate does not harden.

The pan is placed in the freezer for about 30 minutes, so that the shell is properly formed and the cakes will release fully coated.

I am totally in love with this combination of pistachio and rose. In fact, I urge you to visit Sonali’s blog, full of elegant ideas for all sorts of desserts.

Finaly, the third way to dress up a cupcake, is making a few colors of Swiss meringue buttercream and creating a cute pattern on the surface. I followed the design of Liz Shim, available at Domestika.com

CUPCAKES DECORATED WITH SWISS MERINGUE BUTTERCREAM

LION HEAD CUPCAKES
(design from Liz Shim)

I made a simple vanilla cupcake (recipe from America’s Test Kitchen), and a batch of Swiss meringue buttercream following the recipe provided by Liz Shim in her class. I coated the top of the cupcakes with buttercream, and separated small amounts to dye orange, brown, and black. Those were used to make all the details using star-shaped or round piping tips.

I hope you enjoyed this trio of cakes. There are many options for mini-cake pans at Nordic Ware, one more beautiful than the other: hearts, little houses, tiered little cakes, stars… just choose your favorite and play with cake flavors. I think the pan I used would be very nice with a red velvet cake too.

Coating a cake with compound chocolate is another great option to include in your repertoire, and Sonali is a pro at that. You might remember I’ve used her method in the past (click here).

As to piping designs with buttercream, it involves a bit of a learning curve. I am much more comfortable piping Royal icing, which stays put better and is less prone to melting with the heat of your hands in the piping bag. But I intend to keep practicing, so stay tuned!

ONE YEAR AGO: From our Garden to You

TWO YEARS AGO: Lady Bug Macarons

THREE YEARS AGO: Five-Stranded Braided Bread

FOUR YEARS AGO: Green Olive Salad

FIVE YEARS AGO: Coffee Macarons Dressed up to Party

SIX YEARS AGO: Blogging Hiatus

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Tomato Tatin

EIGHT YEARS AGO: Headed to Colorado!  

NINE YEARS AGO: Farofa Brasileira

TEN  YEARS AGO: Thai-Inspired Pork Tenderloin

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: A yummy Brazilian cake: Bolo de Fuba’

TWELVE YEARS AGO:  Summer’s Tomatoes

THIRTEEN YEARS AGO: Leaving on a jet plane… 

ONE TWO THREE MACARONS

One color, two colors, three colors, that is…  

Starting from the simplest, the idea is to try to match the shell with the sprinkle, and then choose a contrasting tone for the drizzle. Easy-peasy. What I loved the most about these macarons? The filling. Black Sesame Ganache. It cuts the excessive sweetness of the white chocolate, and echoes the nut component of the shell. I will be making that again for sure. For all macarons, use the basic recipe below.

ONE COLOR

BLACK SESAME MACARONS
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

For the shells:
200g  Icing/powdered sugar
115 g Ground Almonds/Almond Meal
115 g egg whites at room temperature (approx. 4 eggs)
1/8 tsp of cream of tartar
100 g granulated sugar
¼ tsp vanilla paste or extract

for the black sesame ganache:  
300 g white chocolate, cut in small pieces
100 g heavy cream
1 tablespoon black sesame powder
1 tsp black sesame seeds

 to decorate:
Candy melts + food gel dye + sprinkles

Make the shells:
Line 3 heavy baking sheets with parchment/baking paper or Silpat mats. Layer the powdered sugar, and ground almonds in a food processor. Pulse until the mixture looks like fine meal, about 12 pulses. Pass through a sieve and transfer to a small bowl or to a sheet of parchment/baking paper. Set aside.

Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Make sure that the bowl and the whisk are impeccably clean. Starting on medium speed, whip the whites with the cream of tartar until they look like light foam. The whites should not appear liquid. The foam will be light and should not have any structure.

Slowly rain in the granulated sugar in five additions, trying to aim the stream between the whisk and the side of the bowl. Turn the speed up to high. Continue to whip the meringue until it is soft and shiny. It should look like marshmallow creme (marshmallow fluff). Add the vanilla. Whip the egg whites until the mixture begins to dull and the lines of the whisk are visible on the surface of the meringue. Check the peak. It should be firm. Transfer the whites to a medium bowl.

Fold in the ground almond/almond meal mixture in two increments. Paint the mixture halfway up the side of the bowl, using the flat side of a spatula. Scrape the mixture down to the center of the bowl. Repeat two or three times, then check to see if the mixture slides slowly down the side of the bowl.   Put the mixture in a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip (for rosette macarons, use a Wilton 1M type).  If you don’t have a macaron mat, draw circles on baking/parchment paper about 2inches/5cm in diameter & turn the paper over before placing on the baking sheets.  Pipe shells, I like to count numbers in my head and use the same count for each shell so they end up similar in size.

I pipe inside the circles to about 1 ¾ inches/4.5cm but you can go to 1 ½ inches (3.8cm) & the macarons will spread & fill the circle while drying.

Slam each sheet hard four to six times on the counter/worktop. Do not slam the sheets if you are making rosette macarons, just let them dry. Let the unbaked macarons dry until they look dull but not overly dry. Drying time depends on humidity. In a dry climate, the macarons can dry in 15 to 20 minutes; in a humid climate, it can take 35 to 40 minutes. Rosette macarons benefit from longer drying time.

While the macarons are drying, heat the oven to 300 F (150 C/130C Fan oven/Gas Mark 2). Bake one sheet at a time on the middle rack. Check in 11 minutes. If the tops slide or move (independently of the ‘feet’ when you gently twist the top), then bake for 2 to 3 more minutes. Check one or two. If they move when gently touched, put them back in the oven for 1 to 2 more minutes until they don’t move when touched.   Let the macaroons cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan.  The macarons should release without sticking.

For the black sesame ganache: 
Place the heavy cream in a small saucepan, add the black sesame powder (you can grind enough sesame seeds in a spice grinder until you get the right amount, or use store-bought powder).  Bring to a gentle boil, shut down the heat, cover the pan and allow it to sit for 20 minutes. Bring it gently back to a simmer again, drizzle on top of the chocolate. After a couple of minutes, gently mix with a spatula until the chocolate melts. Add the sesame seeds. Bring to room temperature or place in the fridge for a couple of hours. Use a handheld mixer to whip the ganache lightly before using to fill the shells.

Assemble the macarons: match two shells similar in size and add ganache to the bottom of one of them. Place another shell on top and gently squeeze to take the filling all the way to the edge.

To decorate the macarons,  melt Candy Melts in the microwave, add black food dye and use to drizzle the top. Add sprinkles before the candy melt hardens.

Store the macs in the fridge for 24 hours for perfect texture.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The ganache made a little more than I needed for all the shells, I used it later to make some shortbread sandwich cookies, and it worked quite well also. The only thing to be concerned about when you do a white chocolate ganache is to make sure to increase the proportion of chocolate, or you will end up with a filling that is too soft, even if you whip it.  I hope you try this filling.

TWO COLORS

CHERRY BLOSSOM MACARONS
(from The Bewitching Kitchen)

basic macaron recipe above
Divide the batter in two portions, keep one white
Add a drop of pink food gel to the second portion

Place small amounts of batter in alternating colors over a layer of plastic wrap. Enclose the batter by wrapping the plastic around it, then place it inside a piping bag fitted with your choice of piping tip (see composite picture below).

Add sprinkles right after piping, before a skin forms.

for the filling:
8 ounces white chocolate
1/2 cup black cherry jam
3 tablespoons heavy cream
1/2 tsp Sakura essence

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl and set over a pot of simmering water on low heat. Stir chocolate until melted. Remove from heat, and whisk in jam, heavy cream and Sakura essence. Cover and chill 2 hours, or until cold. Whip it with a hand-held electric mixer until it reaches a good consistency for piping. Transfer ganache to a piping bag and use to fill shells.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: The way you place the different colors inside the piping bag will affect the final look of the shells. In this case, adding them in a random pattern, you’ll get quite unique swirls as you pipe along, it’s really a lot of fun. Yes, I know, I am too easily amused.  You could omit the sprinkles and go just for the swirl look, but I liked the added layer of decoration they provided. Plus, I need to justify my compulsion to buy sprinkles so if there is ANY chance of incorporating them into a cookie… there they shall be.

THREE COLORS

PISTACHIO MACARONS
(from the Bewitching Kitchen)

same basic recipe as above

Divide the batter in 3 portions. 3/4 will be dyed very light green (I used Sugar Art Master Elite Kiwi); the remaining will be divided in two small portions, and dyed darker green (I used Artisan Accents Forest Green), and coral (I used Sugar Art Master Elite Flame). Place the light green batter in a regular piping bag fitted with your favorite tip. Place the other colors in small piping bags, no tips needed. Cut a small opening right before using.

Pipe a slightly smaller shell than you need using the light green batter. Make about 6 shells and stop. Immediately use the other two colors to make your chosen designs.  Continue piping until you use all the batter. If you have leftovers of any color, just pipe small macs or donut macs to use them up. Bang the tray very gently to release bubbles and bake.

for the pistachio ganache:
150 g white chocolate, cut in small pieces
40 g heavy cream
2 tablespoons pistachio paste
tiny amount of green food color (optional)

Bring the heavy cream to a gentle boil in a saucepan. Add to the chocolate together with the pistachio paste, and whisk until melted. You might need to use the microwave very briefly. Add green food dye if you like. Leave it at room temperature or in the fridge for a couple of hours, then whip lightly with a handheld mixer.  Use to fill the shells.

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: These are SO MUCH FUN!  A little departure on my first attempt at a similar decoration technique. Ok, I admit that if you are a beginner at macaron adventures, it might be better to practice a bit with a regular macaron, then move to the two-color version before attempting these. The only problem is that you need to work fast. But the possibilities for designs are endless, really.  I also think that for this particular type, you are better off with the French meringue method. It is a bit too convoluted to do the Italian meringue and divide it in three portions, considering you have to divide the egg whites and the colors in meringue and  almond-sugar portions, so the whole thing  becomes a bit too complex for my taste. Two-colors would be doable, but three or more? I prefer to stick with the French meringue. But if you find a way to do it and the Italian meringue is your favorite method, let me know your secrets…

My first post in the 12th year of blogging had to be my favorite thing to bake. No matter how many mirror glazes, mousse cakes, sourdough breads, or cookies I make, macarons will always have a special place in my heart.

ONE YEAR AGO: Marshmallow Macarons

TWO YEAR AGO: Fujisan Bread

THREE YEARS AGO: Air-Fried Tomatoes with Hazelnut Pesto & Halloumi Cheese

FOUR YEARS AGO: Red Velvet Layered Cake

FIVE YEARS AGO: Lemon-Lavender Bars

SIX YEARS AGO: Quinoa Fried Rice

SEVEN YEARS AGO: Carrot Flan with Greens and Lemon Vinaigrette

EIGHT YEARS AGO: The Secret Recipe Club: Granola Bars

NINE YEARS AGO:  Awesome Broccolini

TEN YEARS AGO:  A Twist on Pesto

ELEVEN YEARS AGO: Ciabatta: Judging a bread by its holes